|Gas chromatographs (samples stacked for clarity) of Virent’s BioFormate biogasoline reformate vs. conventional petroleum reformate. Source: Virent. Click to enlarge.|
Virent has received fuel registration from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its BioForm drop-in biogasoline in blends of up to 45%. (Earlier post.) As a registered fuel, Virent’s biogasoline can now be used in on-highway motor vehicles.
Virent BioForm Gasoline blended with conventional gasoline underwent testing at Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) with the results demonstrating that the emissions from the blended fuel were well below the maximum permitted by current regulations. The fuel was manufactured by Virent at its demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin, which is capable of producing up to 10,000 gallons of biofuels and biochemicals per year. The EPA testing work was funded by Virent partner Royal Dutch Shell.
Virent BioForm Gasoline is a high octane, direct replacement fuel made from plants that offers the benefits of high performance and blend rates, complete compatibility with existing refining and distribution infrastructure networks, and reduced carbon footprint.
Virent’s BioForming platform is based on a novel combination of Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) technology with modified conventional catalytic processing. The APR technology was discovered at the University of Wisconsin in 2001 by Virent’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr. Randy Cortright. The BioForming platform expands the utility of the APR process by combining APR with catalysts and reactor systems similar to those found in standard petroleum oil refineries and petrochemical complexes.
The APR step utilizes heterogeneous catalysts at moderate temperatures and pressures to reduce the oxygen content of the carbohydrate feedstock—aqueous carbohydrate solutions derived from a range of sugar sources and/or biomass. The process can accommodate a broad range of compounds derived from biomass, including C5/C6 sugars, polysaccharides, organic acids, furfurals and other degradation products.
Some of the reactions in the APR step include:
- reforming to generate hydrogen;
- dehydrogenation of alcohols/hydrogenation of carbonyls;
- deoxygenation reactions;
- hydrogenolysis; and
The product from the APR step is a mixture of chemical intermediates including alcohols, ketones, acids, furans, paraffins and other oxygenated hydrocarbons. The chemical intermediates from the APR step can be reacted over a Virent modified ZSM-5 catalyst to produce a high-octane gasoline blendstock that has a high aromatic content similar to a petroleum-derived reformate stream: BioFormate.